W. Joseph Stroupe

The inevitability of a Eurasian alliance

Asia Times Online, 18/8/2004.

On this planet, there exists only one nation that is truly Eurasian, and that nation is Russia. Covering 11 time zones, Russia extends from Europe on the west to the Asian Kuril Islands in the Sea of Okhotsk on the east.

Western Russia is without a doubt European Russia. Central Russia is Central Asian Russia. And Eastern Russia is East Asian Russia. As such, geographically, culturally and economically, Russia exists as both the eastern half of Europe to make Europe complete, and as the top half of Asia, to make Asia complete. No other nation can lay claim to being thus truly Eurasian in nature. Hence, in the formation of any Eurasian alliance, only Russia can play the key role to bring such alliance together into a reality. And only Russia can serve as the core of the alliance, around which the other members must revolve.

Russia possesses truly unique attributes, assets and abilities that, combined with recent global and regional developments and trends, place the country in an exceptional position of opportunity, namely, to serve as the key player to give impetus to the formation of a Eurasian alliance. Russia's geography, as noted above, places it literally in a unique position to draw its European, Central Asian and East Asian neighbors together into an alliance. In the spheres of transportation and communication logistics and infrastructure, Russia's geography lends itself exceptionally well to the progressive tying together of the Eurasian landmass. That geography opens many realistic and practical possibilities for much deeper and profitable economic trade among all the potential partners across the Eurasian landmass. The much-desired creation of the so-called Silk Road, employing roads, railways and other infrastructure to make diverse connections among all the nations from China clear to Western Europe, is already well under way. Cooperation among the European Union, Russia, the Central Asian states, India, China, Southeast Asia, Japan and the Koreas in the economic, diplomatic and even military spheres is continually deepening. For all the players on the Eurasian landmass, the possibilities are many, great and very exciting.

The forces at work

There exist forces of mutual attraction drawing Europe and Asia together, as well as external forces driving them together. Additionally, a growing power vacuum left in the wake of the United States' economic, diplomatic and military decline, coupled with intensifying opposition to its increasingly militarized and unilateral foreign policy, is fueling a widespread and accelerating realignment of states on the Eurasian landmass, where such states increasingly pursue a course of greater independence from the US and a closer alignment with their Eurasian partners.

With regard to the decline of US military power, and the resulting power vacuum that currently exists and is growing, it is becoming clear that the United States, the last superpower, can no longer dictate and control global and regional events as it once did. In spite of America's exceedingly powerful high-tech military, it cannot control events in Iraq or Afghanistan to bring stability and peace. Matters are actually moving toward greater instability and even chaos in those two countries. This fact has regionwide, and even global, implications and repercussions. The aura of America's virtual omnipotence, backed by its unequaled military, has been severely tainted, and is collapsing. On display to the entire world at large is the inability of the military of the last superpower effectively to subdue and control, post-invasion, two small and relatively insignificant powers, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The past two years have demonstrated the very real limits of military power in general, and of the United States' military power in particular. Hence, the decline in America's military power is both real and perceived. It is real because the US lacks the sizable forces it once had, is seriously overdeployed and overstretched in its military commitments, and in various ways has shown it has pointed vulnerabilities to asymmetrical methods of attack. Its decline is perceived because that former aura of invincibility it once had has been removed. Both the perception and the reality of America's military decline is immensely important, for it gives various nations deep second thoughts about forming, or continuing, military agreements and alliances with the US. It also encourages certain other nations to purchase weapons systems and adopt strategies (including the making of alliances) designed to blunt, and even to cut short, America's military influence in their particular part of the world.

Additionally, the decline of the United States' diplomatic power is working in conjunction with the aforementioned decline in military power to cause a contraction of US influence throughout the Eurasian landmass, in spite of the proliferation of its military bases there. In only a few short years, the US has been changed from the unquestioned global diplomatic leader into a supplicant that pleads and demands, but mostly does not receive, the tangible support of the international community, and has even been forced repeatedly to plead (unsuccessfully) of its own (previously) pet alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The US, by all standards of measure, has been ravaged of its once-great diplomatic power, largely as a result of its own foolish squandering of such once-great power. And as that power and influence do rapidly contract, a diplomatic realignment of individual states and of existing alliances is occurring, as well as the significant formation of new alliances. This is manifesting itself as states and alliances (such as the European Union and NATO) pursue a course of increasing independence from the US, and as some even pursue a course of direct opposition to the last superpower. The scale and depth of such independence from, and even direct opposition to, the US was unthinkable only a few years ago, but it is continuing to grow and even to accelerate.

America's economic decline both creates a power vacuum to disrupt the former pro-US alignment and stance of many states on the Eurasian landmass and exerts energetic influence to cause economic realignment along lines of independence from the US. The former comfort of having one's economic wagon hitched firmly to the US economy as the sole leading global economic engine has rapidly turned to deep discomfort in the face of America's economic decline, the current US economic "recovery" notwithstanding. Growing fear of US economic instability in the face of mushrooming debt and the bad, shortsighted economic policies coming out of Washington are motivating Europe and Asia to strengthen and deepen their own economic ties on many different levels. They are having to consider seriously what they would do if the US dollar collapsed, catching them in an unprepared state. They cannot afford the risk of seeing their own economies crash in the event that instability in the US economy becomes too great. Along those lines, as the global price of crude oil continues to climb, Eurasian observers note how the formerly renowned US economic stability and strength, as symbolized by the dollar, is becoming significantly unhinged, as the deep imbalances produced by massive US debt forcefully manifest themselves. Hence, in the atmosphere created by US economic decline, Europe and Asia seek to solidify their own economic strength, significantly and intentionally independent of the US economy. Failure to do so is not an option for Eurasia. Hence a number of positions have been recently taken which demonstrate these facts. The EU and Russia continue to pursue strategic economic cooperation even with those states labeled as "evil" by the US strategic economic ties between Europe, Russia, and Asia are quickly becoming very extensive.

Terrorism unites Europe and Asia

Europe and Asia are being drawn together in common interest to fight the plague of terrorism with a united effort. And their common philosophy and views of how to fight terrorism sharply differ from those of the US. They are less and less interested in cooperation with the US in militaristic efforts widely seen as destabilizing and which instigate more terrorism. Rather, they are progressively coming to the conclusion that deeper and closer cooperation among themselves is the key to fighting terrorism.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are two primary examples of cooperative organizations that address regional security and economic issues, and which cooperate on many levels with the EU. In the face of the threat of international terrorism, such cooperation between Europe and Asia is rapidly deepening, and will continue to develop. Each terrorist attack of any proportions on the Eurasian landmass significantly increases the drive toward Eurasian unity in facing the terrorist threat. This is becoming a very powerful force to unite the states occupying the Eurasian landmass.

The quest for energy security

As Asia accelerates down the path of industrialization, its quest for energy security has taken a leading role in governing politics, economics and diplomacy, bringing about an ever closer relationship with oil-rich Russia and with the energy-rich Central Asian states, which all have vast reserves of oil, gas, and strategic minerals. As US-instigated instability in the Middle East steadily increases, both Europe and Asia have focused much more attention on energy-related strategic cooperation agreements with Russia and the Central Asian states. This trend is set to continue and accelerate.

This is an extremely potent force drawing the EU and all of Asia toward Russia. Since Europe and Asia have no other viable and secure source of energy besides Russia (and the former Soviet Central Asian states), and the prospects for increased instability and uncertainty in the Middle East are great, then Russia will continue to be the focus of European and Asian efforts at creating energy security alliances and agreements. For example, both India and China are forming such agreements with Russia and with the oil-rich Central Asian states. Thus crude oil will greatly "lubricate" the pathways of all Eurasian nations toward the creation of a Eurasian alliance. In the shared view of Europe, Russia and Asia, the unipolar world order of the last superpower is inequitable and unstable. As lesser powers, it is naturally in their interest to see the creation of a multipolar world order where their own power and influence are enhanced at the expense of the global hegemon, the US. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US has mostly acted so as to validate and justify their fears of unrestrained US global dominance. Hence the common world vision shared by Europe, Russia and Asia powerfully unites them, while it also greatly weakens remaining ties to the US itself. Geopolitically, movement in the international system is significantly away from the US, or at least along lines of significant independence from the US. Nations have embarked upon such a course and have benefited in various ways as a result.

Formerly, the predominant global view was that independence from, or even direct opposition to, the US was virtual suicide. However, that fear-based view has recently been mostly discredited in favor of one that admonishes and encourages independence from the US in the diplomatic, economic and military spheres. The new philosophy is working quite nicely for those who have adopted it, and is progressively drawing power away from the US and placing it in the hands of weaker powers, which are learning to act collectively, to form meaningful and mutually beneficial alliances, in order to counterbalance, and even roll back, US global dominance.

America's global dominance is certainly at fundamental risk in the multitude of spheres detailed above, and powerful but more or less gradual forces at work at the elemental levels of the international system are steadily building pressure for fundamental reordering. At the present time there exists enormous pent-up pressure for such fundamental reordering. Additionally, the elemental and powerful, but gradual, forces identified here are unlikely to produce, all by themselves and gradually, the noted massive tectonic-plate shift in the geopolitical system, which plate shift we are identifying here as the formation and solidifying of a true Eurasian alliance.

However, at the fundamental level, the international system is actually being reordered in such a way as to facilitate such future massive plate shifts. As noted above, the existing elemental interconnections between figurative tectonic plates are being both weakened and reoriented, and enormous pressures for massive change are steadily building beneath the surface. But until a pointed catalyst event, or a series of catalyst events, occurs that sufficiently disrupts those remaining elemental interconnections, then the massive shifting and reordering cannot occur; pressure will continue to build beneath the surface, however. It will require a true earthquake in the geopolitical system to release the pent-up, steadily intensifying sub-surface pressures that have been building, to cause the kind of upheaval and geopolitical reordering required to bring into existence a true Eurasian alliance.

What kind of earthquake would be required? What are the chances that such an earthquake will occur?

If it should occur, when is the likely time for its occurrence?

A geopolitical and/or global economic earthquake that further stresses the already strained global dominance of the US, and does so to a significant degree, would be required before the noted tectonic-plate shifts occur. And this earthquake must also put at significant risk the economic and geopolitical security and well-being of the nations on the Eurasian landmass, such that the rapid solidifying of a new Eurasian alliance will be seen by Europe, Russia and Asia as absolutely vital, and as the only answer to the uncertainty and upheaval caused by such an earthquake.

The potential already exists for such an earthquake, in that any number of crises in the making could erupt to trigger very significant global reordering. The Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan Strait, Iraq, Iran and the rest of the Middle East are all hotspots, any one of which definitely has the potential to create an earthquake of sufficient proportions to release all the pent-up sub-surface pressures for enormous change. There is even the distinct possibility that one region may explode into crisis, and thereby rapidly pull the other regions one by one into a vortex of crisis and upheaval.

What is very disconcerting for the US at the present time is the fact that, because of its already weakened influence, it manifests very little ability to control events, to marshal them in directions in which it wishes them to proceed. In Iraq for example, the US has clearly lost the political, diplomatic and military initiative, and is mostly floundering in the wake of its own ill-advised policies and actions there. Under the circumstances, the chance for a very significant explosion into a full-blown crisis is very great. If one merely stands back to observe the events and trends in all the hotspots mentioned above, a clear movement toward crisis, or at least toward significant loss of US influence and control of the respective situations, is evident. Movement in that troubling direction shows every sign of accelerating as well. Sooner or later, a catalyst event, or series of events, will occur that sets loose the enormous pent-up forces to produce the tectonic-plate shifts noted here. That is when the Eurasian alliance, which is currently being prepared and is, in effect, waiting in the wings, will be definitely solidified. Massive geopolitical and global economic tectonic plates are currently moving against each other, with enormous sub-surface pressures building as a result. The movement of those plates cannot be stopped. Neither can their direction be changed. In the current enormously important transition period from a unipolar world order to a multipolar one, the forces for change can only intensify until, at some point very soon, massive shifting and reordering is triggered by some crisis, or series of crises. How do we know that trigger is most likely to occur soon, in mere months, perhaps even this autumn near the US presidential elections, for example? Because we can measure the intensity of the forces and the rapidity of the movement of events currently placing a terrific and increasing strain on the international order, and we can measure the intensity of those forces against the history of past tectonic-plate shifts to see that the current form of the international order cannot endure such strains for long. The interval of time until the massive plate shifts occur must be measured in months, and not in years. In the resulting geopolitical and global economic reordering of things, as a center of power, the approaching Eurasian alliance will be quite formidable indeed.